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The Party’s over

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cllr1Pembrokeshire Alliance loses all credibility over ‘IPPG coalition’ Facebook announcement

ANY shred of credibility the Pembrokeshire Alliance had left was spectacularly obliterated last Friday (Oct. 3). In a shabby move which was very unfair on the party’s band of supporters, the Alliance’s leader, Cllr. Bob Kilmister announced on Facebook that he – personally, and not the party – had: “entered into negotiations with Jamie Adams the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council about a possible coalition agreement with the IPG.” The bombshell went down like a sack of the proverbial brown stuff among the Alliance’s supporters, who haven’t taken the news lying down. Cllr. Kilmister talks about democracy and accountability at every turn, so he’ll be happy that the Alliance’s members and supporters have been coming out in their droves to voice stern opposition, however the voices aren’t just in opposition to the carve-up coalition proposition, but the way it’s been handled.

A slew of highly outraged comments have been posted online in response, expressing shock and disgust in equal measure that a Pembrokeshire Alliance coalition with the toxic IPPG is even worthy of consideration. For those who thought democracy was on life support in Pembrokeshire, it must be refreshing to see the denouncements flooding in from teams of once party-loyalists, and universal recognition that the IPPG is the enemy whose administration of the authority has brought the council into the state it’s in.

Quite possibly JW’s favourite comment summing up the situation comes from Sally Sarre, who says: “Not happy about this, when a dog has fleas you do not sleep with it.” Though the discredited IPPG regime at County Hall is more akin to a rotting carcass than a dog with fleas, Cllr. Kilmister’s judgement appears to have been so wide of the mark that early indications suggest the Alliance is a spent force – even if nothing comes of the coalition negotiations. As yet, the Alliance’s supremo Cllr. Kilmister, who espouses his and his party’s openness and transparency until he’s blue in the face, is ironically refusing to reveal the proposal that’s been put to him by Cllr. Adams in exchange for a coalition agreement.

JW understands that the fruitiest element of the dastardly deal is the offer of the council’s deputy leadership position with responsibility for the economy portfolio – which would attract a salary not far shy of £35k. Such was the shock value of the announcement, in the early stages commenters wondered if the Alliance’s Facebook account had been hijacked. Peter Warrender said: “Maybe the site has been hacked,” which received the response from Dylan Morgan: “It would have been withdrawn pretty smartish if it was a hack.” Another correspondent asked “Is this a joke?” and in a similar vein, Jon Harvey posted: “When I first saw this I had to check the date wasn’t 1st April.

You have lost all your credibility through this!” It soon became clear that the news was definitely no laughing matter, and following the blistering social media reception came some back-tracking, to the extent that Cllr. Kilmister claimed he had not worded his announcement clearly enough, saying: “I am not subtle enough to consider how to phrase things.” A new post was also added reassuring members that, among other things: “We have agreed nothing and we are consulting with you. Transparency in action but you seem to want to shoot the messenger!”

However it seems the damage was already done, and Cllr. Kilmister’s candid lack of subtlety made his intentions crystal clear, thank you very much: he had decided, on behalf of the Alliance, that face-to-face discussions over a coalition and its terms could take place with Cllr. Adams. That is the bone of contention – that Cllr. Kilmister has even entertained the possibility of jumping into bed with the IPPG’s rotting carcass – rather than ruling it out from the start like the overwhelming majority of the Alliance’s brethren.

“So much for an alternative to the IPPG” said Jason Lewis, “Big mistake” said Graham Thomas, “this is alien to the Alliance manifesto,” positing: “Maybe it is time to forget the Alliance” before suggesting the resignees should form their own new political e n t e r p r i s e from the A l l i a n c e ’s wreckage. And a mass exodus appears to be on the cards as other supporters made their intentions clear: “At this stage, sorry, but I shall withdraw my support. As far as I was aware, this was not part of the deal or agreement when joining the Pembrokeshire Alliance. This goes against my principles and therefore I resign from any position within the group,” said David Lamb, the Alliance’s membership secretary. “And it’s a goodbye from me,” said Liz Riby. I have been unable to find a single positive reaction to the announcement – and they are still flooding in.

Given that the Alliance has consistently set itself out as a principled and democratic outfit which opposes the IPPG and all it stands for, Friday’s news would always have been outlandish under any circumstances, however the juxtaposition is made even more remarkable given recent comments that have been made, in public, by the Alliance’s leader. As recently as Monday, Bob was saying he could no longer trust Cllr. Adams or work with him effectively on the council, and was calling for the IPPG leader’s head on a plate. “You should resign as leader” – he said directly to Cllr. Adams, whilst looking into his eyes, during a public meeting on Monday morning at County Hall. In a prophetically titled post ‘A Test of Leadership’ on his ‘Bob on Friday’ blog, Cllr. Kilmister says of the coalition negotiations that: “The sole objective is to put Pembrokeshire first.”

“Be in no doubt – Pembrokeshire County Council is in crisis,” readers are told. Talk about getting your own house in order first! He recounts a telephone call he received from the leader, Cllr. Adams on Monday night, during which he agreed to Cllr. Adams’ request to meet with him on Tuesday. Cllr. Kilmister says: ““I cannot divulge exactly what was said because I gave an undertaking of confidentiality. However, after consulting my two Council colleagues Jonathan Nutting and Peter Stock twice, I again met with Jamie Adams on Friday.

We agreed to consider the possibility of a formal coalition agreement because of the current situation in which the Council finds itself. We have not yet agreed to anything – only talks about more talks.” In a bid to appease the rank and file non-councillor members of the Alliance, a meeting has now been arranged for the party’s ‘Executive Committee’ and its members to “discuss it fully,” which Bob says is “absolutely crucial to the negotiations” and where a decision will be made, reinforced with: “We are a democratic organisation and the decision is not mine to take,” though it appears he did take the decision by himself to enter into negotiations with Cllr. Adams.

The bizarre blogpost gets even more bizarre because Cllr. Kilmister then goes on to discredit Cllr. Adams and says it is “clear” that he “has no intention of resigning.” “The Opposition is not capable of bringing him down and only those in his own Group can currently do that.” In the unlikely event that this is part of a cunning plan, we should reserve some credit for Cllr. Kilmister. It’s occurred to JW that the Alliance’s double-dealing despot may get his wish, and an Alliance/IPPG coalition may actually succeed in “bringing him down.” Such a coalition could be the final council disaster that prompts the Welsh Government to parachute in the commissioners to administer the authority and place it in special measures.

That would certainly have the effect of removing Cllr. Adams’ hands from all levers of power. Cllr. Kilmister’s blogpost outlines his own knowledge of a rumour that’s been doing the rounds for days among County Hall circles: that the IPPG’s Cllr. Brian Hall is plotting with a number of colleagues to form a breakaway group which will leave the IPPG without its majority, which currently stands at 31-29. The suggestion is pretty clear: if Cllr. Hall’s breakaway group gets off the ground, it would force Cllr. Adams into forming a coalition with it to maintain his majority status and position as leader, presumably in exchange for one or both of the two vacant cabinet posts, or even the deputy leadership.

Cllr. Kilmister writes: “The thought of Cllr Hall being back in a position of real power should be enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. It would seem that the only way to stop this happening may be a Coalition involving the Pembrokeshire Alliance, which is why we are talking with the IPPG.” It would seem to this author that the only thing Cllr. Kilmister wants to stop is Cllr. Hall signing the dotted line on the sordid deal before he does. And as for shivers going down spines, he’s bang on the money, if you’ll excuse the pun. That the Alliance – or, to be precise, any of its three councillors – would even comprehend the idea of jumping into bed with the IPPG tells a lot.

That it would enter into negotiations with Cllr. Adams without consultation with any of its supporters who disagree with the idea – including its constitutionally elected-president – says so much more. Whilst its supporters out on the streets of towns and villages across Pembrokeshire are no doubt well-meaning, well-intentioned and amenable to its talk of openness and democratic accountability which is in stark contrast to that of the IPPG, when it comes to County Hall there isn’t much that separates the Pembrokeshire Alliance from the shady ruling cabal, and there would be less still if the coalition goes through.

The bare-faced hypocrisy of last Friday’s repugnant announcement will show its followers – in an unfortunately bruising manner, perhaps – that, at the very first whiff, the Alliance’s councillors were unable to resist temptation and were prepared to indulge in the sort of back-scratching patronage that’s blighted Pembrokeshire politics for generations, and which they professed to oppose.

 

President elect turns to Facebook

In an extremely well-written and considered Facebook post the party’s elected president, Hayley Wood, articulates her own position in the wake of the bombshell announcement in very clear terms. She also describes the lack of consultation that took place. Her post culminates with her resignation from the Pembrokeshire Alliance altogether: Following on from last Friday’s statement, I write with disbelief that only last week the leader of the PA said he did not trust Jamie Adams. Within hours, a telephone conversation took place, which led onto discussions/negotiations to form a Coalition. As elected President of the alliance no discussions have taken place between myself or any of the Cllrs within the party.

I am also unaware if any discussions have taken place with any of the Executive Committee for that matter. I was emailed Thursday evening where Bob asked me if I could attend a meeting 10am Friday morning and was informed that he, Jonathan Nutting, Peter Stock and Selwyn Runnet were the only ones involved. There was no information regarding the purpose of this meeting. I could not attend as this was too short notice and asked Bob to feedback to me. This did not happen. Last night an email was sent out from Bob to the Executive Committee inviting us to an emergency meeting saying ‘I have this week entered into preliminary negotiations with their leader Jamie Adams but I have not and I will not take any decisions until this matter has been discussed by this Executive Committee’. Clearly Bob is making the decision and not the Executive Committee.

It appears the Executive Committee is being used as a discussion forum rather than engaging in the decision making process. The Executive Committee have not met since June although several attempts have been made by me to do so by calling on the leader to arrange this. In my experience, when forming a new group consistency is key in order to achieve the aims of the group. A continuous dialogue between members and Cllrs is essential to further develop the party and promote engagement. I am well aware that things happen fast in politics but this depends on who is driving the agenda. At any time since Monday evening, Bob could have let the Executive Committee know what his intentions were. I even spoke to him on the phone Wednesday evening. From the messages I have received today from members and non-members, it is clear that these actions have created fear, panic and distrust amongst followers of the Alliance, reminiscent of a politics that the people of Pembrokeshire stand strongly against. Regretfully, I do not support the Cllrs decision to negotiate a coalition with a proven liar… Jamie Adams, and I will not enter into any discussions with them surrounding this absurd notion. It is with heavy heart I have decided to withdraw my support for the Alliance and resign as President.

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Welsh Conservatives appoint new Senedd Leader

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IT HAS been announced that Andrew RT Davies MS has been appointed as the new Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Becoming leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd once again is a great honour and privilege, and I’m pleased to enjoy the unanimous support of my colleagues to take us forward after a difficult few days for us all.

“On behalf of the Group I want to pay tribute to Paul Davies for his service as leader. Paul is not only a colleague but a trusted friend, who has served his constituents and party with distinction, and will continue to do so.

“There is urgent work in front of all of us and our immediate focus will be continuing to hold the Labour administration in the Senedd to account on vital issues such as the vaccine rollout, and fighting May’s election alongside our excellent slate of candidates and dedicated volunteers.

“We are in a moment like no other, and the COVID-19 pandemic has sadly only served to shine a spotlight on the challenges in people’s everyday lives; challenges that have been made all the harder by twenty of Welsh Labour Government failure.

“From our fragile economy to ever increasing NHS waiting lists, people in Wales have been badly let down by successive Labour administrations. Let me be clear; devolution isn’t the issue, it is the socialists in the Labour Party, and Wales deserves better.

“In just over 100 days, the Welsh public will head to the ballot box to decide on the future they want for our country and in the coming weeks and months the Welsh Conservatives will put forward a positive plan to get Wales moving again and build back our country better than ever.

“This will be in tough election during a tough time for our country and whereas other parties want to use this period to divide and separate, we’ll seek to unite our country and deliver a strong voice for Wales, in a strong United Kingdom.”

Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Senedd, Janet Finch-Saunders MS said: “Following a meeting of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Senedd this morning, I’m pleased to confirm that Andrew RT Davies has been endorsed unanimously as our new leader in the Senedd.

“As Chairman of the Group, I want to say thank you to Paul Davies for his immense efforts in the post since 2018. Paul played a key role in our record-breaking General Election in 2019, whilst setting the groundwork ahead of May’s Senedd election.

“Our attention now turns to May and taking the fight to the Labour Party.”

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Health Board makes vaccination U-turn after queue-jumping complaints

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HYWEL DDA UHB today (Jan 23) announced a U-turn on its vaccination policy and will stick to the national priority scheme.

The move came after allegations it allowed Pembrokeshire County Council employees and other non-front-line workers to jump the queue for inoculations against Covid-19.
While surgeries in Pembrokeshire are still waiting for vaccines to inoculate its most eligible patients, the Health Board’s approach to delivering vaccinations breached Government guidance.

Yesterday (Friday, Jan 22), Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda University Health Board told The Herald: “The decision was made this week to extend the vaccine invitation to staff groups critical to the COVID response, without which we would not be able to run essential COVID response services.

“Many of these staff are currently redeployed from the frontline and patient-facing roles and employed by the health board, social care services, independent or third sector care services and fall within the JCVI’s priority group 2.”

The Welsh Government’s strategy is to inoculate frontline staff and then Over 80s. People in those categories are JCVI Priority Group 1.

However, this afternoon the Health Board issued the following statement: “In the past week, after offering frontline staff the opportunity to book vaccination, we expanded our eligibility criteria.

“We have reviewed the guidance and will now not be able to offer or vaccinate this group of staff currently. This is because it is increasingly difficult to draw the line around which staff should be included in this group and because we risk vaccinating before they are eligible.
“We must stay within the JCVI guidance which permits us only to vaccinate frontline health and social care staff, to protect patients and service users, at this point.
“We know that many other groups who are not part of the health and social care workforce are also critical to the wider COVID response and therefore it would be inequitable.
“We are so grateful to all key workers. We have throughout the pandemic continually strived to do the best for our staff and population, and we apologise for any confusion there has been around this issue over the past few days.”

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Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.

The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.

The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.

However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.

In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.

“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.

“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.

“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.

“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.

“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”

“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”

Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:

“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.

“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.

“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.

“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.

Commenting on the latest developments, William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire and former AM for Mid and West Wales said: ‘Paul Davies & Darren Millar have now done the correct thing in stepping down, to allow due process to take place, both within Cardiff Council and within the Senedd.
‘While they both need to reflect and learn from recent events, the Welsh Conservatives must now be given the opportunity to select an interim leader to take their party forward into the upcoming Senedd elections.
‘Schadenfreude is one of the unattractive features of our current politics and I want no part of it. I will simply work with my Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues to hold Welsh and UK Government to account on the management of the pandemic.
‘My own journey of Covid-19 illness and recovery is a reminder that we should unite to double down on the virus, support our NHS and other key workers and endeavour to do the right thing.’

Welsh Labour Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire has called out Paul Davies over his involvement in his apparent disregard of COVID rules in the Senedd and has expressed her concern that no actions have been taken to suspend him by his Party.

Commenting on the Welsh Conservative Group not taking any action against Paul Davies, Jackie Jones said: “I am flabbergasted that the Tory party is sitting on his hands and failed to recognise the public concern at the events described this week. The latest revelations suggest that he didn’t’ just breach the rules once but maybe twice. Now that this information has come to light, it is only right that the Tories look again at the decision they have taken today.

“As Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd he should be setting an example, not flouting the strict pandemic rules by supposedly drinking till 2 am on Senedd premises. Paul Davies constantly criticises the First Minister and Health Minister for implementing rules that are there to protect all of us, but here he is reportedly drinking till who knows when – maybe on two occasions – totally hypocritical.”

Ms Jones added that “I’m sure the constituents of Preseli will be equally annoyed by his behaviour, when they have had to abide by the rules, not going to pubs, not seeing loved ones for months at a time. It is completely out of order.”

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